2012: Catching UPLast week, I posted for the first time in two years. You'll recall from that post that 2012 was the year I focused on my own musical endeavors, which left little time for sponging up others' music in the way I normally would. But here's a review of what I did manage.
As far as new music goes, 2012 was a lost year. The rigors of leading an active band simply didn't leave the time to devour new tunes in the way I had in years past. Additionally, it was something of a quiet year for my top bands. However, I made time for a handful of records, including:
Fiona Apple—The Idler Wheel (etc.)
Andrew Bird—Break It Yourself and Hands to Glory
Dinosaur Jr.—I Bet On Sky
Father John Misty—Fear Fun
Dirty Projectors—Swing Lo Magellan
I'm forgetting some, but really, that's what 2012 was for me. And of that slate, I've only steadily revisited Shields, Fear Fun, I Bet On Sky and Hands to Glory. Speaking of Fear Fun, this is where I get to push my thick-rimmed glasses up my nose and say, "Yeah, I've been a J. Tillman fan since like 2009" (proof!) Of course, J. as Father John is a different animal than the understated folkster with whom I was familiar. But it's always nice to see an artist switch gears to a positive end. Which, by the way, is why I glommed onto Andrew Bird's latter 2012 release. While it still retained many of Andrew Bird's trademark idiosyncrasies (whistling, quirky lyricism, soaring vocals, whistling) the album swaps the baroque histrionics that typify much of Bird's solo canon with a more straightforward Americana approach.
But overall, I was spread so thin that new music fell by the wayside. I did finally get into War On Drugs' Slave Ambient as well as this delightful folk anthology. I know I discovered a handful of other older releases, but they're escaping me at the moment. This is why steadily updating this blog is helpful, you see.
Similarly, my 2012 live music intake suffered due to my personal musical commitments. I probably played 30 rock shows last year, but only caught a handful worth mentioning. Among them:
The Avett Brothers at the North Charleston Coliseum
February 12, 2012
When I was in college, The Avett Brothers used to play New Brookland tavern, a grimy dive in West Columbia. I saw Band of Horses there right after they released their first album. But I never saw the Avetts there, despite my multiple invitations to do so. This will haunt me forever. By the time I got into the Avett Brothers in 2005 when Four Thieves Gone came out, they were on the cusp of graduating to slightly larger venues. I finally saw them at the Music Farm, then at various performing arts centers, and then finally at the Coliseum. With each graduation, the Avetts' live show had to sacrifice some of the wily stage antics. Of course, the actual music was sounding better because of the advantages that more sophisticated audio bring, but we can all relate to the bittersweet realization that a band you used to tout as the next big thing has become just that. You're thrilled for the band—especially when it's guys like the Avetts, who toured relentlessly for years and gleaned a following the old fashioned way before breaking out. They're now doing GAP commercials and play custom guitars and headline festivals. Good on 'em! But it's all happened in tandem with what my ear considers to be a dramatic dropoff in quality—at least the quality that drew me to the band in the first place. But, what can you do? The kids love it!
By the way, the show was phenomenal—third row seats helped, but the Avetts still exude a passion for performing that few bands can match. It was funny to see the folks around us become relatively disinterested with any song that predated I & Love & You, only to sing full bore when a newer song popped up. But thankfully, the band closed with "Talk On Indolence" and I got to bounce around like an idiot while the n00bs wondered what the hell was going on.
In conclusion, to any college kids reading this: if a band from out of town is playing a dive bar and there's a bit of buzz surrounding it, go see the show. You may never hear from them again, but if you skip it and they blow up, you'll kick yourself. Forever. [kicks self]
Beach House at the Music Farm
May 6, 2012
It was hot as hell. We had a terrible view. They played a fine show. We left before the encore.
Wilco at the St. Augustine Amphitheater in St. Augustine, Florida
May 19, 2012
It was the closest they've come in some time, so an overnight trip to America's oldest town was in order. Our tickets were second row center, which I believe is the best ticket I've ever had in 9 Wilco shows. Also memorable: the power went out during the middle section of "Shot In The Arm". The band just gazed at one another amidst the darkness, but Glenn kept the beat going while the audience repeated the line "Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm!" until several minutes later when the power came back on and the band picked up right on cue. Teamwork!
My Morning Jacket/Band of Horses at the Time Warner Cable Town Amphitheater
August 25, 2012
Unfortunately, my buddy and I missed BOH's set because of traffic, but were rewarded with the revelation that our tickets were for the stagefront pit—we'd assumed we'd be embedded in a swath of generally admitted masses. But not so! We had plenty of elbow room and actually ran into a buddy of mine from my days as a Ryan Adams show mainstay.
Anyway, MMJ's performance was magnificent—I'd wager it was one of the top three live performances I've ever seen. This is a band tailor-made for playing on a crisp, starlit night. Band of Horses stood stageside and watched the performance in awe. Mind you, they'd been on tour with MMJ for a stretch already, so they'd been privy to this performance many times. But I can't blame them—I'd drink it in nightly too, if I had the opportunity. The show performance of "Steam Engine" cemented it as one of my favorite songs, and led to a months-long MMJ kick that hasn't fully subsided.
Andrew Bird at the Charleston Music Hall
November 5, 2012
This was the night South Carolina demolished Georgia. I watched the game at a nearby bar and missed the first couple of songs because I couldn't tear away, even though it was well in hand by the 4th quarter. I eventually made it over to the CMH for my second Andrew Bird experience. Specifics are foggy, but I just remember smiling the whole time and that it was an excellent show. He played much of the Hands of Glory album I wrote about earlier, perhaps why I've become so fond of it.
There were a few other smaller shows—Shovels and Rope at a local beer festival comes to mind. But as has been the theme, I can't quite remember what shows I attended as a spectator amidst all the shows I played.
The goal is to get a 2013 catch-up post going next, although I've been a bit more conscientious fan this year so I may split it up into multiple posts. Until then!